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23 November 2010 @ 02:07 pm
"The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N. K. Jemison  
calico_reaction's book club is reading "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N. K. Jemison this month (book 44), which I'd peripherally heard of but probably would never have got round to reading on my own. And I think if I'd just picked it up in a shop/the library I'd've flicked through the first couple of pages & put it back down again. Which would've been a shame, because I did enjoy it once I got into it.

The thing that was putting me off initially was the mannered prose which felt stilted at first, and the somewhat meandering narrative, full of things like "who was I again?" or "I am not sure why I remember this now, but I am certain that it is important." But by a couple of chapters in I was sucked in, and found the style gave the story a lot of its atmosphere - it felt like a fable or fairytale.

Yeine has been summoned back to her grandfather's palace, where her mother had eloped from to marry her father. The place the world is ruled from, all the kingdoms controlled by the Arameri, and kept in fear by the Arameri weapons. This story is set many generations after a war between gods & the Arameri were the priests/worshippers of the one that won, and now the keepers of the ones that lost (but lived). The story is one of politicking amongst the Arameri, and amongst the gods. It's all schemes within schemes, and Yeine is there as a pawn - but she's not just a country cousin, she was ruler of one of the kingdoms before she was summoned. So she has her own agenda, and isn't quite the pushover that everyone else was hoping for (in their different ways).

I enjoyed the book, and I'm pleased I read it, but I'm not sure I'll read it again (which is a shame, coz I've bought it). Looking back on it there are things that don't sit as well with me as they did at the time - I feel the Arameri were a bit one-note, ruthless and debauched without any full-blooded family members rising past that. It was a bit aristocrat=bad, servant=good. But then maybe that fits with the fairytale feel - maybe it needed to be just that bit black & white to work. I'm not sure.

Another oddity was how complete in itself it felt - it's "Book One of The Inheritance Trilogy", but I got to the end and it felt like the story was done. Much more of a sense of closure than I'd expect from the first of three books. I guess from the author interview at the end (Orbit (the publisher) seems to go in for these, I'm not sure if I like it or not) the next book will follow different characters, and the author also says it won't be set as much amongst the elite of the world so maybe the characters will end up feeling a bit more nuanced. I might pick up the next book if I see it in the library, but I'm unlikely to go out of my way for it.
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